While Bucknell’s football program will be visiting New York City this weekend for a Patriot League scrap that will bring a close to yet another regular season, Jermaine Truax will be monitoring the Bison’s grid fortunes from a distance.
From Indianapolis, actually.
Although the Bison could wind up claiming a share of the Patriot League crown, there’s a possibility the Bucknell-Fordham outcome could impact where eventual champ Holy Cross or Lafayette is seeded in the playoffs.
And that’s why the Bucknell athletic director and the other members of the 10-man committee charged with selecting the 24 teams that will play for the Football Championship Series crown will spend a hectic weekend watching remaining games, studying resumes and discussing the respective merits of the teams that eventually will fill out what they hope is a remarkably competitive bracket.
Sometime late Sunday morning, after additional discussion and several reviews of the field they’ve selected, committee chairman Greg Seitz of Jacksonville (Ala.) State will be part of the ESPNU telecast (Sunday, 12:30 p.m.) that will unveil the bracket.
Since Truax is the Patriot League’s football chair and a member of the selection committee for the second time — he’s approaching the midway point of his four-year term — he has a much-better understanding of how everything should play out.
Not to mention a firmer grip on the various tools available to the former Edinboro (Pa.) defensive back as he continues to evaluate potential participants.
“Well, I think any time you join a new committee or a new organization, there’s always a learning curve,” Truax said. “So, a learning curve itself was challenging because you’re trying to understand all the different dynamics, the amount of data that you’re able to view, just the mechanics of the process alone."
Even as the regular season has played out and long before Truax readied for his weekend stay in Indianapolis, the effort and work needed to select 24 deserving teams and complete a competitive bracket has been taking place.
While Truax is part of a Regional Advisory Committee that oversees play in the Patriot League, Northeast Conference and Colonial Athletic Association, every Monday he’s involved in a conference call with the other members of the East Region committee.
Since national committee members are assigned to conferences other than their own, Truax deals frequently with the Northeast Conference’s commissioner and others who have a feel for what’s developing within that league’s eight football-playing members.
There’s also several weekly conference calls involving national committee members as well as the time needed to view in-game highlights from contests involving those teams that may be under consideration. Throughout, Truax has work-in-progress spreadsheets that allow him to compare quantitative data quickly and concisely.
Although the basic criteria used to select the 14 at-large teams — the Patriot League champion is one of 10 winners awarded automatic entry — are overall record, strength of schedule and the eligibility and availability of student-athletes (academics, injuries) for the NCAA championship, there are other available mechanisms that may be used.
Among the other tools committee members could opt to use are overall record, record against Division I opponents, records against opponents from other qualifying leagues and conferences, record against FBS opponents, head-to-head, common opponents’ records, the FCS coaches poll, the NCAA’s Simple Rating System (SRS) and, obviously, the input from the various Regional Advisory Committees.
“I can tell you the committee spends a lot of time,” Seitz said earlier this week during an interview with STATS, the outlet that generates a Top 25 poll. “I probably have watched over 100 football games this season and we just have so much data that is provided to us that we’re able to digest and take into account as we get into the room.
“Really, when you’re part of the whole process, it gives you a better understanding of how this works. This is not just for FCS football, we’re using the same selection and bracketing process that they use for the men’s basketball, the women’s basketball, baseball, softball,” continued Seitz, who is in his fourth and final year on the committee.
“It’s the exact selection and bracketing process that they use among all their championships.”
And while the process of distilling the 124 FCS programs down to the ultimate 24 already has begun — the Ivy League does not send its champion to the FCS postseason tournament — only six automatic berths have been decided. Once the Patriot League, Big Sky, Ohio Valley and Southland decide titles, that’ll add four more teams to the mix.
Once Truax and the rest of the committee choose the 14 at-large selections, they’ll begin trying to rank them so the top eight seeds can be determined. Since those eight will receive byes through the first round and home games in the second, that’s critical.
“When you get toward the end of the season and you start seeing common opponents, now the SRS numbers become more valid and there are clear records,” Truax said of the time involved in trying to get things right. “You start spending more time because that’s when you start having those tough conversations. I know this team beat this one head to head, but I still think this other team is better.
“You need to understand all those factors so you can have a legitimate case for why you’re putting teams ahead of other teams.”